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Revel in the beauty of North East mountains
A photographer’s delight, Darjeeling and Sikkim promise stunning landscapes at every turn you make, creating sights that you’ll forever remember.
Hailing from Chennai, the first snow was a dream for me like everyone. So, I decided to make a trip to Darjeeling and Sikkim in December.
Darjeeling, at an elevation of 6,700 ft., is a city in West Bengal bustling with energetic people. The city that’s popular for tourism is vibrant, culturally diverse and geographically gifted. To experience the fauna of this beautiful hill station, one must visit the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park. Tibetan wolves, red pandas, snow leopards and tigers attract visitors. The guests can view giant bears in close proximity and talk to Himalayan birds.
Happy Valley Tea Estate is a lovely spot to sip some chai and enjoy the lush green topography. Head over there in the evening and view the sunset below the blue-green mountains. But, be on the qui vive; it gets dark around 4.30 pm in Darjeeling.
Darjeeling Mall road is a locus of all things artistic. Winter clothing, decor artefacts, accessories and other handmade products are available in plenty. Don’t forget to collect some famous Darjeeling Tea while you shop.
The perfect way to catch the sunrise is at Tiger Hills. Thousands of people, both tourists and locals flock to place at an altitude of 8482 ft. to witness the golden hour, braving 3°C at 5 am. If you’re lucky, you can see the top of the Himalayan Peaks and the red glow over the Kanchenjunga range. But the heavy clouds bamboozled us and we couldn’t view Mount Everest’s peak.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I rode on the Joy Train for a ride through the town of Darjeeling. The Railway Museum is a must-visit. The history of how the railway lines worked in the past are clearly displayed through photographs from the past, illustrations and exhibitsof bygone machines.
Make Dali Monastery, Peace Pagoda, War Memorial and Rock Garden crucial parts of your itinerary as they promise a great time and a lot of learning about the culture of the mountain people.
While in Sikkim...
Sikkim is a quiet, clean and green paradise. I state this literally because you will not spot even a small bit of garbage or plastic anywhere on the streets. No one honks on the road unless it is absolutely necessary. People greet strangers, play with street dogs, sing songs and play football. Even a tight trip would be like a laidback vacation; there’s no hurry in Sikkim. Being happy is the goal.
During the climb to Sikkim, the blue gushing waters of the Teesta river salute you. The only sounds you’ll hear are the river currents, forest birds and the lyrical winds. I spent a good few hours on the MG Road, Gangtok. This market road is the most happening place in the capital city. From resto-bars to decors, from supermarkets to bookstores, locals come here almost every day. I devoured on some momos on the street and they were the most appetising momos I’ve ever had. I also guzzled some hot Sikkim Temi Tea.
My initial plan was to go to Nathu La Pass and Tsomgo lake in the North. But, nature is unpredictable and due to heavy snowfall, the permit to visit North Sikkim was cancelled on the day. Although I was disappointed that I couldn’t play in the snow, I decided to manoeuvre and take a new route.
Exploring East and South Sikkim was the new plan and it was the most magical place I’d ever seen. At every turn, I saw the gigantic, magnificent and snowy Kanchenjunga mountain. At 28,169 feet, stands Kanchenjunga, making us feel so humble. I saw the mountain range in blue, white, red and yellow. As the skies changed colours, so did the mountains with heavy snow. Through the window of my car, I was peering at its beauty and was lost in its enchantment.
Although Tashi View Point meant specifically for the Kanchenjunga view, it is nothing like looking over the Third Highest Peak in the World from every road in South Sikkim.
Char Dham is the spotlight of South Sikkim. This is a Pilgrim Centre with a statue of an 87 feet Lord Shiva. The temple also has replicas of different Jyotirlingas of Shiva across India. The four Dhams — Badrinath, Jaganath, Dwarka Nath and Rameshwaram Temple replicas are also constructed. At Namchi, South Sikkim is the world’s largest statue of Padmasambhava (an incarnation of Lord Buddha). The spiritual place also offers a panoramic view of the state of Sikkim. South Sikkim also propounds places like Lingdum Monastery, Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok for moredivine experiences.
With a good mixture of nature and culture, Sikkim left me with pleasant memories and glimpses of Kanchenjunga that will remain etched in my memory.
— The author is a writerand loves to travel andexplore new places